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Should You Wash Mushrooms?

Find out if you need to clean mushrooms before eating or cooking them

Should You Wash Mushrooms

Common kitchen wisdom would advise that you never wash mushrooms. But, as with so much other common wisdom, there are a number of sources that are quick to say the opposite. So is tradition correct, or should everyone have been washing their mushrooms all along?

The short answer is ‘no.’ Mushrooms are fungi, and so don’t have the advantage of an outer skin to protect them from absorbing water (this is part of what sets them apart from fruits and vegetables). If you soak them or leave them under running water for too long, they’ll lose flavor and become slimy. This problem gets a lot worse if you try to store mushrooms after you've washed them.

Is it that simple?

But there’s an important follow-up question here: should you clean mushrooms. Often, what appears to be "dirt" on mushrooms is really just harmless peat moss, so even mushrooms that seem like they'd need to be cleaned really don't. In the end, though, the answer depends on you, the mushroom, and the tool you use. 

When to clean mushrooms

Most cultivated mushrooms you’d buy at the store are quite clean and safe to eat. That said, it’s completely understandable if you won’t want to risk eating mushrooms that appear to be visibly dirty. Also, if you’re the sort of person who wants to eat wild mushrooms, you’ll certainly want to get rid of the natural dirt and debris that collects on them.

Methods for cleaning mushrooms

There are two ways that are generally accepted as the best for cleaning mushrooms.

  1. Use a damp cloth or paper towel and gently brush dirt away.
  2. Use a special mushroom brush, which doesn’t involve any water at all. These are usually cheap and can be found in stores or online if you don't already have one.
Both of these methods allow you to clean mushrooms relatively thoroughly without running the risk of soaking them in water.

If you don’t have the time, though, you can always give your mushrooms a quick rinse. If you go for this route, you should follow three tips…
  1. Keep them whole: mushrooms will absorb more water once they’ve been cut, so if you have to wash them, do it before you have to slice or break them open.
  2. Wash only when needed: If you wash your mushrooms and try to store them afterward, they’re much more likely to become limp and gross than if you had left them dry. Try to wash right before you cook.
  3. Be quick: use as little water as possible.

Washed mushrooms

A rule of thumb...

In fact, use that last tip as a rule of thumb whenever you feel you need to clean your mushrooms. In general, more water means less flavor and worse texture. 

Unless you're an ardent foodie or crazy about mushrooms in particular, though, you probably won't notice a huge difference as long as you follow the tips listed above. Feeling comfortable with the food you eat is an important part of the experience, and if cleaning more aggressively helps you feel comfortable it's probably worthwhile. 

Stuffed mushrooms

Using your mushrooms

If you’ve read this far, you probably agree that mushrooms are delicious. If you’re looking for ideas on how to put your favorite mushrooms to good use, try one of these recipes featuring the tasty fungi:

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